Fall Foods & Spices ~ Cranberry Cures

Cranberry {Vaccinium macrocarpon}

Stunning, ruby-red berries are the signature of the cranberry vine and a sure sign that autumn has arrived. Exceedingly tart – enough to give one a full face pucker – cranberries are a traditional food of Northern America. The larger variety V. macrocarpon grows in North America, while a smaller variety, V. oxy-coccus, thrives in Europe. We can use both interchangeably. In North America, Native Americans looked to cranberries as food and medicine. The Wampanoag introduced cranberries to the colonists and they soon became popular folk medicine for digestive distress, skin issues, scurvy, and urinary problems.

Modern Medicine:

Cranberries contain a spectacular amount of healthy properties. They’re very high in vitamin C, and also contain vitamin E, fiber, protein, iron, magnesium, calcium, and beta-carotene.

Of course, most people know this fruit as a time-honored folk remedy for urinary tract infections {UIT’s}. Sixty percent of women will develop a UTI at least once in their lives; drinking 1 1/2 cups of cranberry juice a day reduces bacteria and can cut the incidences of UTI’s by 50 percent. While it was once believed that the acidic juice made the bladder inhospitable to bacteria, recent studies have found that it’s cranberry’s proanthocyanidins {a class of polyphenols} which prevent bacteria from adhering to the walls of the bladder, thus allowing it to be flushed from the body. Further studies have shown that proanthocyanidins prevent the H. pylori bacteria {the main cause of most ulcers} from attaching to the stomach lining, and inhibit plaque bacteria from forming on teeth and gums. If cranberry juice isn’t an option, try cranberry capsules, which offer concentrated effectiveness and work better for some folks.

Consult a physician if you have kidney stones or are taking medications for ulcers or blood thinners before using cranberries medicinally.

Cranberry Vinegar

The light colored vinegar in this recipe lets the ruby-red cranberry shine through for a tart and flavorful condiment. Use on salads, as a marinade, or however, you’d like to enjoy it.

16 oz. vinegar {rice, champagne, or white}

16 oz. cranberries, fresh

Half the peel from a quarter of fresh orange, pith removed

1-inch fresh ginger, thinly sliced with skin removed

Combine vinegar and cranberries and muddle. Add to a glass canning jar along with orange and ginger. Cover with a plastic lid. Store in cool dark place for two days to two weeks, depending on your taste.

Strain and bottle. Keep it in the fridge.

Advertisements

Fall Foods & Spices ~ Pumpkin

Those delightful fruits and spices we enjoy in autumn provide more than just a flavorful kick. Centuries -old use and modern research prove that fall staples like cranberries, pumpkins, and cinnamon pack powerful medicine inside.

Our autumn foods and seasonal spices are delicious, time – honored traditions that begin to ring in the holiday season and comfort our souls. Full of nourishing vitamins and minerals, they also contain some savory and surprising returns on health.

The Power of Pumpkin {Curcurbita pepo}

Each fall, many folks wait with bated breath for the beginning of “pumpkin spice season” at coffee shops and bakeries around the country. But unlike these often artificially flavored treats, real pumpkin and its seeds offer a bounty of healthful benefits.

Grand and distinct with handsome orange hues and dark-green vines, the pumpkin is always a welcome sight, heralding the start of autumn and the upcoming Halloween. Pumpkins are not a vegetable but in fact a fruit. Native to North and South America, they were staples in the indigenous diet and medicinal preparations. European explorers, introduced to the fruit by Native Americans, soon began exporting the seeds abroad for cultivation and they spread through Europe.

Modern Medicine:

Pumpkin’s sweet, nutty flavor lends itself well to soups and stews, baked goods, and smoothies. The high fiber content, about 7.1 grams in a cup of pumpkin puree, helps regulate healthy elimination and protect the cardiovascular system, while its high vitamin and mineral content offers superb nutrition, providing significant amounts of protein, magnesium, and iron, as well as vitamins A, B6, C and E. In fact, one serving {about one cup} has 200 percent of the recommended dietary allowance {RDA} of vitamin A, and the body readily converts it into beta-carotene, a potent antioxidant. Lycopene and lutein {also antioxidants}, abundantly found in pumpkin, can help eyesight and inhibit diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease. And, of course, its antioxidants have a role in cancer prevention by scavenging cell – damaging free radicals and keeping cancer cells in check.

While pumpkin fruit is an amazing food, its seeds offer even more benefits. Also high in beta-carotene {more than carrots}; vitamins A, C, and E; fiber; and protein, they also provide generous amounts of zinc and magnesium, which help fight viruses and have a tonic effect for men by reducing inflammation in benign prostatic hyperplasia {BPH} and regulating/promoting testosterone production. Additionally, the seeds contain tryptophan, that soporific amino acid that boosts production of serotonin, encouraging restful sleep, calming nerves, and easing mild depression.

However, one of pumpkin seed’s most surprising actions is its use as an antiparasitic. A research study published in the September 2016 issue of the International Journal of Molecular Sciences found that pumpkin seeds are extremely effective in helping the body expel intestinal parasites, thanks to an amino acid called cucurbitacin, along with newly discovered berberine {found in goldenseal} in pumpkin. Hot- and cold-water extraction and alcohol extraction exhibited nematicidal {worm killing} effects on the parasites. The alcohol extract proved the most potent, purging both adult parasites and their eggs from the GI tract. The study concluded that pumpkin seed extract should be considered a safe and inexpensive alternative to some currently available treatments.

Pumpkins have few side effects. Too much can cause digestive disturbance due to the high fiber content. The seeds can trigger migraines for sensitive individuals.

Toasted Pumpkin Seeds

Many of us like to reserve the seeds from pumpkins after a night of carving Jack – o -lanterns. The seeds taste great sprinkled over yogurt, combined in trail mixes, or just on their own with a little salt and pepper. Those concerned about phytic acid {which can block the absorption of certain minerals} can soak the seeds overnight to remove it.

1 cup organic hulled pumpkin seeds

1 Tsp. favorite seasoning

To toast, add to a dry pan and heat on low, stirring constantly until they are golden. Add a spice of your choice {curry or Cajun blends work well, as do sweeter seasonings like nutmeg and cinnamon} and stir to cover. Slide onto a plate to cool. Seeds spoil quickly; store in an airtight container in the fridge and they’ll keep for two months.